Monday, 24 November 2014

Isle of Wight Zoo

It may have been warm and sunny when we left Southampton, but it was cloudy and cool by the time we docked in East Cowes.  Undeterred, we decided to drive anti-clockwise around the island, heading initially to The Needles.  Well, we got within a couple of miles, but then saw the horrendous queue of traffic waiting to visit the "attraction" so decided to give it a miss.  By this time it was blowing a gale and raining heavily, so "Plan B" involved heading to the Isle of Wight Zoo.  We ought to have been warned by the sign outside, inviting people to visit the Zootique Shop & Cafe, but we still coughed up the entrance fee and went in.

There wasn't much else to do on the island given the conditions, so the place was pretty busy with families and screaming children.  This was particularly true of the cafe which was overcrowded and had a long wait for both tables and food.  It was the only place in the entire zoo which was warm and dry, though, so we suffered the third-rate lunch in the hope that the rain would stop soon.

Eventually the rain petered out, but it was still cold and windy by the time we ventured outside again.  Sadly, many of the animals had disappeared under mysterious circumstances (see one of the many signs below) or were simply hiding out of sight - presumably waiting for Summer to arrive.

One of the few exceptions to the rule were the meerkats, which were as obliging as ever.  What a pity the backgrounds were so obviously artificial - especially the perch, which looked like it had been made out of Plasticine by someone from Blue Peter (think Tracy Island).

Those animals which did venture outside looked bedraggled and miserable, and the paying public weren't faring much better either.

The whole zoo felt like it was part of a WWII military camp, so it was unsurprising to discover that the site had, in fact, been a Top Secret installation during the war.  Far more interesting than the animals was an exhibit about Operation PLUTO (standing for for Pipeline Under The Ocean).  Supplying fuel for the D-Day landings was a logistical nightmare for the Allies, with tankers being obvious targets for enemy attack.  Instead, a pipeline was laid from the Isle of Wight all the way across to Normandy, and the zoo is built on the site of the original pumping station.

Needless to say, we didn't stay very long...